26 Days into the New Normal – A Message to Remember

As I sat in Heathrow Airport on Saturday, March 14th I remember sulking in disbelief that I was returning home from my semester and travels abroad nearly two months early. I was sad, tired, mad, annoyed…I was a bunch of negative feelings. I was also relieved that I would be at home to support my family and friends through an unprecedented few months. I was calmed by the fact that I no longer would wake up every day in a foreign country wondering what would happen if things went south fast. But most of all, I was in utter disbelief of what was going on around me.

Heathrow airport felt like a movie scene. It was all very normal and all very not normal. There were lots of students there that day, it wasn’t an apocalyptic scene, but there was a sense of slow panic in everyone’s movements.

I’ve been home for 26 days. I haven’t left my neighborhood, haven’t hugged my grandparents, haven’t gone to any stores, much like the rest of New York. It’s been an odd 26 days. The first few days felt like an alternate universe. Why was I, a junior in college, at home in the middle of March? I haven’t been home in the middle of March in almost three years.

girl laying on a bedFor the first week, it was hours of sleeping and watching Netflix. It was a break from the universe. I deemed it to be a much-needed cleanse because I wasn’t sure how else to handle a worldwide pandemic…I don’t think many of us do, to be fair.

I’m a lucky student though. I have a roof over my head, younger brothers to annoy, online classes that aren’t too difficult, and ways to stay busy. I can’t complain about much.

I have had a good amount of time to think about things since one can only watch so many TIkToks at a time. My time abroad was well-spent and I made memories that will last a lifetime and friendships that run deeper than most. This weekend, pre-pandemic, I would’ve been traveling to Barcelona with a few of my closest friends. But things don’t always go as planned…obviously.

So instead, this weekend I will be working on some papers, practicing some home yoga, and trying to maintain a somewhat normal sleep schedule. I’m succeeding in two of those three things—you can go ahead and guess which one of those is not working out too well.

In January, if you had asked me to list all the things that I thought could go wrong during my semester abroad I would’ve told you my luggage could be lost, a hurricane could hit, my passport could be stolen, and with a stretch, I would suggest that I could get stuck in a foreign country. I would’ve listed over 100 things before I even suggested a worldwide pandemic.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the point of this article is. I’m not complaining that my semester got cut short and I’m not overly panicked about the world. But I think it’s important to remember that right now isn’t the time to complain. Most of the texts I’ve been getting since I got home are complaints about being bored, not being able to leave the house, not being able to get haircuts or nail appointments, not being able to go out on a Friday night, and the list goes on. Have I taken part in the complaints? Yes. And the complaints are valid and important to acknowledge. Normalcy is changing right now and no one knows how to handle this situation at any age. But it is more important to acknowledge how lucky some of us are to be able to complain about the small things.

I was able to book a flight home in a matter of minutes. My dad was able to pick me up at the airport. I was able to come home to a house and complain how bored I was while I scrolled through my phone on my comfortable bed with Netflix playing in the background.

My quarantine is different than those living in low-income housing. My quarantine is different than those living in abusive relationships. My quarantine is different than living as an immunocompromised person. My quarantine is different than college students who are unemployed and don’t have anywhere to go. My quarantine isn’t the end of my sanity.

And I think at first, I forgot that. I forgot that I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad and lucky enough to be in a warm house. I forgot that not being able to go to Target isn’t really that big of a problem. I forgot that I was able to turn a pandemic into a soul-searching type of experience. Lots of people can’t say the same.

My time in London allowed me to explore the world. My experience coming home allowed me to recognize how easily society can come together in times of need.

I’m an oddly optimistic person. I will admit that. I’ve worked really hard the last few years to become an optimistic person. I’ve kept in touch with friends from around the country to see how everyone is handling it and we are all in the same boat right now. It’s tough. It’s boring. But it’s doable and for that, I’m so thankful.

At the end of the day, this lockdown is a few months of my life. It will end. I’ll be able to complain about how online classes are hard to pay attention to and how I missed out on traveling and all these things, but I’ll have years ahead of me to do all the things I missed out on. So, everyone stay inside and just remember that this isn’t the end of the world if we all come together.

 

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